Now that back-to-school season is upon us, it isn’t unusual to hear an audible, collective sigh of relief among parents as they drop their kids off each morning. Carefree summer days are great, but Preview (opens in a new tab)after a few weeks juggling work while keeping kids entertained in things other than screens is anything but relaxing. However, I remember when I’d give anything for the school year to be over for my child.
I vividly recall the morning of my son Noah’s first day of kindergarten. He and I entered into a sort of wrestling match to get him dressed for school. When he refused to walk to the car I carried him while he kicked and screamed in protest. He unbelted himself as quickly as I belted him back in. By the time we reached school, we were both exhausted, but getting him into the car proved to be much easier than getting him out. He held onto the back of the driver’s headrest with a death grip. This tearful battle continued for weeks yet when it subsided other troubles cropped up at school.
Noah is on the autism spectrum and struggles with a host of learning challenges including expressive language, sensory processing, hand-writing, reading comprehension, and social skills. But, the big hairy challenge which covers every inch of his being is anxiety – the cornerstone that links kids on the spectrum together. It’s part of their fabric and not something one can simply medicate away.
After Noah’s first year of school, we were introduced to Miriam and began enrolling him in social skills classes through the Learning Center. For years, we continued to supplement his education in this way, but it wasn’t enough. Despite monthly “team meetings” with his teachers and therapists, the gap between him and his peers continued to grow. By the time he hit fourth grade, social circles had completely inched him out. He felt defeated and was becoming more withdrawn each day.
“Mom, it’s not like kids are mean to me…it’s just that they completely ignore me,” he said.
Fast forward to today, Noah is in his second year at Miriam School. He looks forward to going to school every day. He has a solid, circle of friends and he’s thriving. In the evenings he now asks for extra reading time before bed. Extra reading time!
When I asked Noah what he liked most about Miriam School his answer took me by surprise. He didn’t mention the school’s gigantic OT room complete with a ball pit, obstacle course and a variety of swings. He didn’t say it was because he now has a bunch of friends who appreciate and share his unique sense of humor. He didn’t refer to Miriam’s dynamic team of teachers and therapists who never tire of unlocking his potential. Instead, Noah said, “Miriam School makes me feel safe.”
Me too, buddy.
As a parent, Miriam School gives me the assurance I am giving my child the best chance at life. I trust the teachers and therapists will do all they humanly can – to ensure my son is successful. And, it reminds me of a quote by Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I’m so grateful to Miriam School for helping kids and their families feel safe and good and enough.
-Andrea Felgenhauer, Current Miriam School Parent